Citizens will gather around former Downtown Eastside cop shop to campaign for public meeting

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      A newly formed community group is ramping up pressure on city council to turn the former Downtown Eastside police station into an inclusive centre for innovation and the arts.

      Thomas Bevan, spokesperson for Citizens for Change at the CopShop, told the Straight by phone that there will be a choir and a light-projection show starting at 7 p.m. tonight (March 14) outside the former police station at 312 Main Street.

      It's designed to highlight the group's demand for consultation with area residents over the future of the 100,000-square-foot building at the corner of Main and Hastings streets.

      "A public meeting should be held with respect to the development of 312 Main," Bevan said. 

      The city and the Vancouver Economic Commission have refused the Straight's requests to comment on their plans for the building.

      Last month, former Vancouver East NDP MLA Bob Williams told the Straight that he's spearheading a broad effort to create a Vancouver Centre for Social Innovation and Inclusion, which would be modelled on a similar centre in Toronto.

      The idea is backed by the Jim Green Foundation, which is named after the former Vision Vancouver councillor.

      However, Williams said that the city has spurned the idea and appears ready to turn the 100,000-square-foot city asset over to a U.S. high-tech landlord based in the Silicon Valley.

      Bevan is a graduate of UBC's school of community and regional planning and has been a real-estate adviser to the Jim Green Foundation.

      However, Bevan emphasized that tonight's event and his work with the community group is not connected to the Jim Green Foundation.

      "This is a separate initiative that I've started by myself as a citizen," he said. "The objective of the Citizens for Change at the CopShop is to raise awareness about the process and the lack of community engagement with respect to 312/324 Main [sometimes, both addresses are used] and the city's proposed technology centre being facilitated through the Vancouver Economic Commission."

      When asked if this could become an election issue later this year, Bevan replied: "There are a lot of people that are very upset about the plans intended for the Downtown Eastside. There are a lot of different viewpoints. I think this is a very significant asset in the community at a very significant juncture in time. So I could see that this becomes an issue that's representative of the larger plans for the community in general with regards to the LAP [local area planning] and the city's involvement in the community for the future of this neighbourhood."

      He then asked why the city isn't inquiring into how artists' talents can be utilized in the former police station, given that this postal code may have the greatest number of artists per capita in the country.

      "It hasn't been a basis for conversation, which I think is a real shortcoming," Bevan said. "And that needs to change. What we're doing with the projections is to highlight some of the capacities of the community in a fun and engaging way."

      For his master's degree at UBC, Bevan created a video about how real estate can be used for community benefits.

      The idea has caught on with Simon Fraser University and Vancity, which were each prepared to invest $1.5 million into the Jim Green Foundation's plans to combine arts groups, First Nations organizations, environmental groups, and businesses in an inclusive centre that reports out to the community.

      That idea won't come to fruition if the city chooses instead to turn the former cop shop into a home for high-tech companies.

      Bevan said it's a "shame" that the city hasn't reached out to the community "given the symbolism around the building", which was a "flashpoint at the missing-women's inquiry".

      "That doesn't seem to be registering in their books for why this space needs to be developed in an inclusive way," he added. "But I can't comment on why they haven't done that because I haven't been involved in those discussions."




      Mar 14, 2014 at 6:24pm

      If the city turns the building over to a high tech company, I think there might be a tax base there. If they give it up for "artists" there will definitely not be a tax base. We need more businesses paying taxes so our taxes will maybe at least not go up. The "creative" community gets enough free perks already.

      Fai Con Calma

      Mar 14, 2014 at 11:24pm

      BOBO's comment is exactly the kind of thinking that has turned this city into the greedy money-grabbing pig-sty it is today. We need to think about community currency or other solutions to get away from a limiting self-interested vision which we have been brain-washed into. The ideas proposed are NOT limited to a "useless" arts centre to give "undeserving free perks" to artists as BOBO would have us believe, but integrated are other proposals for social housing and youth development on the agenda. To see real human connection and creativity sacrificed to a few dollars and cents is shockingly demeaning. Most of all a potential social housing project could help hundreds of people find an affordable home.

      Alan Layton

      Mar 15, 2014 at 10:17am

      Converting the building in to a high tech startup incubator will generate a great deal of money and many jobs. Turning it into whatever is being proposed by Bevan's group sounds like it'll be a black hole for money and I'm not sure that anything will come out of it except reasons to spend more money. But if it will help artists and the arts I'm all for it. Why not make it mixed site with high tech, arts support and First Nations guilt alleviation?

      Rocky Racoon

      Mar 16, 2014 at 1:00pm

      Bobo and Alan,

      The economy is evolving. Past models of production have changed. Creativity spurs innovation, which is the differentiator that cities all over the world are striving for.

      Your argument that providing resources and opportunities to the arts is a "money hole", is a simplistic and crude way to look at the situation. The economy and arts must inform each other. We need to think about creative solutions to complex problems that our society is facing. This "design thinking" thesis is what leading business schools, such as Rotman in Toronto, are fore front and centre on.

      Professor Pier Luigi Sacco from the University of Bologna has written extensively on the marriage of the arts and a healthy economy. Should you wish to learn more, refer to Charlie Smith's previous article on the CopShop which references Elvy Del Bianco's report, The Power of the Arts in Vancouver: Creating a Great City.

      Let us build bridges between people who think differently, not barriers.


      Mar 16, 2014 at 11:34pm

      That building is falling apart, why would some buzzword filled valley venture capitalists want it. They could easily fund startups out of a one room office in gastown. There is a mini class war going on in the valley right now about tech companies ruining San Fran with high rents, and CEOs raging on twitter about the amount of "bums" in San Fran who don't appreciate them and they are going to set up in the heart of crackville? Have they actually been to that neighborhood?

      City of Vancouver is desperate for money, jacking up property taxes every single year into the sky, they are not going to green light any artist centers when they can make a profit. It's also why the city wants to bulldoze the viaduct because that land can be over developed for more property taxes.